Friday, May 03, 2013

Weekend Reading: The Modern Ethics Edition

I've got quite a mix of links for you this weekend, but the unifying theme is living ethically in these times.

First, an old article from Salon about traveling ethically. I love to travel, and I do think about how to travel ethically. This article doesn't really provide the answers for how to do it, but I think it does a decent job of raising some of the right questions, and it has links to some good resources.

Today Salon had another article about ethics- this time about buying clothes ethically. Bad Mom, Good Mom writes about this topic quite a bit, and this week she had posts about taking the wardrobe refashion pledge and the Me Made May challenge, and the impacts of those two things on her choices and behavior.

I know how to sew- I learned as a kid, and sewed into early high school. I do not currently have the time or the inclination to make my own clothes, though. It is not an activity I find relaxing. For one thing, I suck at cutting straight and that always stressed me out as a seamstress. I do, however, greatly prefer to buy fewer clothes of high quality versus a lot of low quality clothes. I'm not really into disposable fashion trends. I like high quality clothes in classic styles that flatter my body type. The trick is finding them. I've been pleased with the quality of what I get from Stitch Fix, but as much as I enjoy the serendipitous aspect of it, I do not want the number of clothes it would take to build a reasonable wardrobe solely by that approach. I suspect that I'll get at most a few fixes a year, and use them to push me out of my fashion ruts and add some variety to my otherwise pretty boring wardrobe.

I'm still planning to try out a personal shopper later this year, when my pants size has stabilized. But I'm also tempted by another online service I came across- custom shirts. Most of the online options are geared for men, but I found one called Joe Button that has a nice selection of women's button up shirts. I'm tempted because I like the way a well-fitting button up shirt looks- but I can almost never find one. I am a 38F. A structured shirt that fits my chest is usually tent-like and unflattering,  so I end up with nothing but t-shirts. Luckily, I work in a casual industry, but I'd like a few dressier options. Joe Button's website says that I can customize based on my measurements, which is a tempting idea. They use tailors based in Hong Kong.  Before I use a service like Joe Button, I'd like to do some research to see if their conditions are as good as they imply.  If I decide to give Joe Button a try, I'll let you all know how it turns out.

I have ordered clothing from far away before- I bought a pair of Sole Rebels from Ethiopa last year, and I love them (I think these are the ones I have). I don't have a problem with clothing made in other countries, as long as the working conditions and pay are acceptable (see the Salon article for more info about that). However, I'm also interested in finding some good local designers to support, assuming I can find someone here in San Diego who makes things appropriate for a 40 year old professional, and not just for 20-something beach goers. I guess I could always extend my search up to LA or even San Francisco, too. I thought that maybe I had a lead from my Stitch Fix boxes. Of the the 6 pieces of clothing I've kept, two were from a brand called 41 Hawthorn, and both of those were made in the USA. Google tells me that it is Stitch Fix's in house brand, though.

Anyway, enough about clothes. My next link is a blog post about work-life balance and being a good team leader from Jon Gallant, a dev manager at Microsoft. Anandi (who blogs at House of Peanut) sent it to me saying it was the best article on the topic she'd ever read, and I agree with her- it is a  great article. For me, caring about work-life fit is part of my ethics not just as a parent and a worker, but also as a manager. A lot of people I come across, look down their noses at management and business in general, but most people work for businesses, and the quality of the management has a huge impact on those people's quality of life. Therefore, I think that one of the most important things I need to do to be ethical at work is to be a good manager. I take the role seriously, particularly with regards to ensuring my team can have good work-life fit and that they get the career development opportunities they want. Reading posts like this one make me feel that I'm not alone in that.

My next link is an article from a guy who unplugged from the internet for a year, because he thought that maybe the internet was the source of some of his problems. It turned out that his problems came from inside himself, not the internet. It is a good read. I found it via Scalzi's post on it.

The internet does make it easier for people to be haters, though. I've written before about how I'd rather be a maker than a hater, and Wil Wheaton had a great post on that topic.

And finally, here are some everyday acts of kindness, captured courtesy of those Russian dashboard cameras that are famous for capturing accidents real and fake. It is nice to see the good things that they capture for once.

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! I think Jon Gallant's post should be required reading for managers, esp in tech companies :)

  2. Yep - agree that Jon Gallant post was excellent and sums up my approach to work-life balance. Work will take as much as you give - I find it a challenge really to balance the fact that I *want* to give more at work (because I think the work I do is interesting and important and a good use of my skills and I'm learning stuff) but I know that if I did, it still wouldn't end!

    Anyway, with regard to the ethical shopping, this is something I'm trying to do more. If you want to combine ethical shopping and travel here are a few of my favourite NZ based clothing brands:

    Chalky Digits ( - ethical merino and organic cotton casual/outdoorsy wear. I have a few pieces now and would like more... They also do menswear. DK bought a pair of pants from them about 5 years ago for what felt like a ridiculous price - but they are still going strong after a lot of wear so on a cost/wear basis they've turned out to be cheap as chips.

    Kilt - sadly their Christchurch store got flattened in the earthquake and they haven't re-opened. But their Auckland shop is just a few minutes walk from my BFF's house... so I bought a new coat.

    Sailor Spy is a new find - the designer's studio is on the corner of our street and is open a couple of days a week. I called in a liked a few things but had spent my clothing allowance already this month

    I've also been very surprised (and pleased) to find nice clothing in some unexpected places in NZ - like Geraldine & Tarras (see

    In terms of kidswear - my daughter's kitted out in Puddlejumpers overalls and raincoat - - which I must declare is owned by a friend of my sister-in-laws)

    In terms of shoes Ziera (formerly Kumfs) certainly put the word out that they're ethical despite producing in China -

  3. Anonymous4:53 AM

    I think lands end used to customize shirts for women. I wonder why they stopped.

    You might consider Brooks Brothers. Much of their stuff is made in Italy and they usually have an in-house tailor who can take your measurements when you buy. They're pricey but very good quality and you can get the clothing itself for about half off if you keep your eyes out for their summer sale. (They have 40-60% off sales twice a year.) Sadly neither the airport store nor the outlet have tailors (and they're both actually run by different companies than the main store).

  4. I get my shirtmaking supplies from Pamela Erny, a shirtmaker that also sells high-quality supplies to the public at great prices.

    She can make you custom shirts and mail them out to you. Or, you can ask her if she knows someone from your area. She has a great client database and might be able to steer you to her larger customers near you. (A hobby sewist like me places orders annually, but a professional shirtmaker orders much more often.)

    My FIL, a retired tailor in San Diego, knows many tailors in SD. But, they are mostly Vietnamese and have more experience with my 34A than your 38F. Still you can ask tailors, dry cleaners and local fabric shops for references.

    Some pros are surprisingly fast with fair shop hourly rates of $20-50. Some retirees charge surprisingly low hourly rates to supplement their pensions and stay busy, $8-15. Custom clothing made in the US is not out of reach for people on a professional income.

    The first shirt quote will be high, as they need to spend time tweaking a pattern for you. But, subsequent orders will be cheaper.

    I know you don't have the time to invest in learning how to sew, but the technology has changed significantly. Cutting time is more than halved with rotary cutters. Fusible interfacing eliminates hand basting of sew-ins. You can cut and sew a shirt in less than an afternoon (compared to fruitless searching in stores).

    Paying a local shirtmaker or dressmaker can be cost-effective if you count your shopping time. For reference, pros will be 2-3 times as efficient as most home sewists so a custom shirt with a pattern that is already adjusted can make a shirt in about 1.5-2 hours (with serged seams as in most RTW) and longer (with clean single needle tailoring).

    If you came to me, I'd use simple serged seams until we got the fit right, and then switch to clean single needle tailoring after that.

    1. Awesome ideas! Thanks. I don't mind paying for quality and fit- it is more a matter of finding someone in the first place. I haven't hit on the right google search yet! I agree, the cost isn't so bad when you factor in that it would avoid the hassle of shopping.

      My Mom is a great seamstress, and makes wonderful things for the kids. If I ever decide to pick up sewing again, I'm sure she could get me started. Maybe you're right and things have changed enough that I'd enjoy it.

  5. Anonymous5:49 PM

    Maybe you could decide on a future vacation based on seamstress availability. On of the housemasters at my graduate school would get all her clothing custom-made on vacations in Barbados.


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